Gov. Quinn, President Easter, and university officials dedicate ECE Building

10/13/2014 Meg Dickinson, ECE ILLINOIS

State and university officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn and University of Illinois President Robert Easter, dedicated the building in a ceremony Friday, Oct. 10.

Written by Meg Dickinson, ECE ILLINOIS


The ECE Building is a legacy that will support students and faculty alike for the next 100 years. It builds on the department's incredible history, as recounted in a video that opened the ceremony.

State and university officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn and University of Illinois President Robert Easter, dedicated the building in a ceremony Friday, Oct. 10. A video recording of the entire ceremony is available online.

Quinn remarked upon the building’s ability to help students and alumni change the world, both now and in the future.

“I think it’s very important that our students who are going to be coming here, who are going to be involved in all the technologies of the future, whether it’s nanotechnology or biotechnology, whether it deals with communications or whatever the case might be, they’re going to change the world and make our world better,” Quinn said, and they’ll do so in a way that’s inclusive.

The building carries Illinois’ tradition of breakthrough research and innovations, he said, and will only enhance opportunities of the students who will use it.

“It’s so important that the way they’re going to learn is not in tunnels or compartments,” Quinn said. “There’s a real opportunity in this building, this 21st-century building, for students to collaborate and cooperate and learn from their teachers, and learn from the alumni.”

President Easter thanked “a team of hundreds” for building a “state-of-the-art home for one of the world’s most respected and accomplished engineering departments.”

“More than 320 individuals donated to the project, covering half of the project’s $95 million cost,” Easter said.

He also thanked Quinn, who released the state’s half of funds for the project at a time when the state was struggling with the effects of the Great Recession.

“He came through. His support went beyond appreciation for what this building would mean for our students, our academic programs, and our research,” Easter said. “I think the governor saw what it would mean for the state’s economy, the role of the breakthrough discovery and innovation that will come from this, and (how it will) foster advancements in our economy.”

ECE Department Head William H Sanders called the building “a true home for our department.”

“It reflects upon our values, from its emphasis on hands-on learning and collaboration, to its goal of net-zero energy,” Sanders said. “It will allow us to offer our students and faculty unparalleled opportunities for the future.”

Engineering at Illinois Dean Andreas C Cangellaris, the M. E. Van Valkenburg Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, talked about ECE ILLINOIS’ tradition of creating innovations that seem improbable.

“There’s wonderful video footage of Nick Holonyak,” Cangellaris said. “He’s wearing his suspenders, describing his work, and holding the LED in his hand. And printed on the box that holds the device, the words: ‘The Magic One.’ Nick knew—even as a young engineer at General Electric—that impossible, magical things are what we do at Illinois every day.”

By making the impossible happen, Cangellaris said, Illinois engineers change the world for the better.

“The digital world was built by Illinois engineers because of the technical skill our students learn and because we know how to build an ecosystem,” Cangellaris said. “We know how to embed innovative minds in industry, in culture, and education. We challenge our engineers to think about the issues from a thousand different perspectives and we demand of them to engage others who can bring another thousand perspectives to the problem at hand.”

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering, thanked the Grainger Foundation for its role as lead donor for the ECE Building, calling it “yet another landmark” on a campus full of “monuments to discovery and learning.”

“We are forever grateful to our friends at the Grainger Foundation, and their partnership with our College of Engineering. They’ve played a significant role in our lives and in getting us here today, to this celebration,” Adesida said. “With the Grainger Foundation partnership, we succeeded in launching the construction of this facility – one that will serve us well into the future, and one that was built with a broad community of support.”

He thanked the foundation for its support for Engineering at Illinois as a whole.

 “The Grainger Foundation has been a part and partner with the College of Engineering and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in so many ways, for so many years,” Adesida said. “The global reputation and pre-eminence of the College of Engineering has been strengthened, and sustained.”


Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who participated in the ceremony, later emphasized that the ECE Building fits into the Illinois’ campus strategic plan to foster innovations because it allows for collaboration and cutting-edge research.

“We have asserted our shared goal of being a pre-eminent public research university that is positioned to help solve the grand challenges of our society of the coming 20 to 50 years,” Wise said. “We have set out to foster discovery and innovation, to provide our students with transformative learning experiences and to make a visible and significant societal impact.”

Wise said she is grateful for the donors whose support is providing half of the $95 million project cost.

“These gifts have established a permanent new chapter in the Illinois legacy,” she said. “These rooms and facilities will be the home of faculty and students and birthplace of life-altering discoveries 20, 50, or 100 years from now. And every single one of them, for generations to come, will owe a debt to those who demonstrated their commitment to educational opportunity.”

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This story was published October 13, 2014.